Advent 1 - Eager anticipation

Advent 2017  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings

We eagerly anticipate the promises given to us by Jesus

Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →


We've finally hit December, and for many families this means putting up Christmas decorations. I know in our house that is certainly what happened yesterday.
I personally love this time of year, and while some people might dislike the extended duration of the Christmas lead-up, I actually really like it. Of course, I can get all religious here and say my love of it is because of the focus on Jesus, and of course that is true, but there is so much anticipation of good things, not least of which is the holidays.
It’s a time when many people go away, and certainly I know that a number of you will be doing just that.
School students start counting down the number of days before they can finish school, and I suspect the teachers are also equally keeping count of the days as well. Office workers secretly have websites open behind there work where they can do some research on their holiday destination.
Of course, we know this is all coming, but we also know that there is a lot to do before we get there. Various projects need to be wrapped up before the break. There are countless parties to attend, some more enjoyable than others. Then there is everything to do with Christmas preparations. Buying presents, planning Christmas Day with the family, which depending on your family can be a huge task.
While the anticipation for something better might be there, we live in the here and now, and that’s not always easy.

Not so good for some...

Actually, it needs to be stated that while some of us may have nice holidays planned for many people, including some here, there are no such happy plans. In fact, for many people, the bleakness of their current situation is overwhelming.
Some people are essentially driven to despair in this situation, leading many to some form of depression. But this is where we can offer hope. The beauty of the Christian message is that no matter what your situation, no matter how desperate it might be, there is hope!
The hope that I’m specifically talking about, and will refer to for the remainder of this message, is that hope we have in Christ coming back and wiping away every tear and taking away every pain because he will be ushering in a new age - one where everything is right.

Exploring our expectation

Navigating this hope can sometimes be tricky because there are many factors that can shoot us off path, and so our anticipation can become somewhat misguided. And that’s what I want to explore this morning. We’re going to look at many of the pitfalls of life that skew the biblical anticipation that we should have.
The way we are going to explore this is by doing a bit of a journey throughout the Bible looking at the promises made, and the subsequent anticipation of their fulfillment.
I then want to briefly look at four readings which come with the first Sunday in Advent and from each of them I’m going to find a danger of sorts in which we need to be wary of as we ourselves anticipate the coming of our Lord Jesus.

Old Testament

Well, to start our journey we’re going to start back in Genesis. The first eleven chapters explain how things began and in particular how we got ourselves in one massive mess – a mess that we call sin and has torn us from fellowship with God.
The first main step in the process of reconciliation then comes with Abraham in Genesis 12, who eventually becomes the father of a great nation, the nation of Israel. Now, the beauty of the Bible is that we don’t just get all the promises at once, rather through an unfolding storyline, God slowly reveals different aspects of his promise to restore humanity.
There is a lot of detail in each one, and we’re only going to glance over them, but we find promises of land where God’s people will find rest. We find promises relating to the priesthood in which we can communicate to God. We find promises of a king who will lead his people with love and justice. Essentially, as each promise is expounded, we see a rich promise where God’s people can once again be restored.

Ps 80

In Psalm 80, which is the first of the readings that I want to highlight this morning, we see this hope of restoration being expressed. In Ps 80:3, it says “restore us, O God, make your face shine on us that we may be saved”.
I’m actually not going to spend long on this chapter today, but as I mentioned before I want to take from each passage, something for us to be wary of as we await the day of Christ’s return.
And so from this Psalm, I want to show how from verse 8 it uses a metaphor of a vine being transplanted from Egypt. What is being expressed is the newly formed nation of Israel being taken from bondage in Egypt and placed in the promised land with all the promises associated with it. But as the Psalm expresses, it didn’t last - in fact it went rather bad, and eventually the people were taken into exile, which is what is in view in verse 16 when it says that the vine was cut down.
But there is still the plea for restoration.
And so what I want to take from the Psalm, is the knowledge that in our expectation for something better, we are usually our own worst enemy in that we are prone to sin.
Sin is not from God, and when we let it dwell in us we are taken a long way from where God would have us be. That is why we need to keep close to God and let him be our God. He will guide us into something far better.

The disappointment

As we come to the reading in Isaiah, this background from Ps 80 becomes important. That is, the fact that there was great disappointment in being torn away from the land God gave them after there was so much promise when they had entered the land.


Well the book of Isaiah is actually set in two parts. The first looks mostly at them being taken from the land, and the second half (starting at chapter 40), focuses on them coming back from exile. We’re talking here specifically of them coming back from Babylon to Jerusalem.

A troubled mindset

And so, when we get to Isaiah 64, we start to see some of the mindset that they would have had regarding their expectation.
The chapter starts with – “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down” – you can hear that expectation bordering on desperation.
The writer knows that God is able, but as is evident from verse 5, the writer also well knows the ability of the Jewish people to make a mess of it which is essentially the issue we found in Ps 80.
And so comes the turmoil in the expectation.
It feels so close, yet experience tells them that it’s going to fail.
But is now the time? When is the time?
You see, this is the strange thing about these prophecies. They are often quite vague on timing. Actually, if you’ve spent much time getting to know God, I’m sure you will have experienced yourself that his sense of timing is usually quite different from our own. In hindsight, we always realise that his timing was actually better, but sometimes that is hard to see in the moment.

What happens to them...

Now it’s worthwhile looking at what actually happened to this group of Jews as they came back from exile with eager anticipation for something better.
In fact, we can read about it in the book of Ezra and Nehemiah. As they settle back into the land promised to them by God, there are initially some promising signs, but just like Isaiah mentions in chapter 64, they also continue to sin. At the end of the day, they never fully have the political control that they wanted as various other world super powers take control.
But this only further fuels there anticipation of something more to come.
Unfortunately, with their growing anticipation, they also manage to skew what they were looking for, and so by the time Jesus came, they were looking for a political figure to bring them back to what they saw as their glory days. As we all know too well, many of the Jews completely missed the Messiah, so much so, that many Jews today are still waiting for their longed for Messiah.
And so I want to highlight as the next pitfall to avoid is the misguided nature of our hope when we let our selfishness take over - for this is what was happening. They were more concerned with regaining power than seeing what God had in store for them.
The great danger for us in our own anticipation is that we can make it all about ourselves. You know, when God returns, then we’ll have it good. When we start to put the focus on ourselves, we can easily fall down a very similar path to the Jews in the lead up to Jesus where their idea of a Messiah was what suited them.

Anticipation in end times

Well, despite many Jews missing it, the Messiah came some four hundred years after the setting for Isaiah 64. We’ll of course explore this coming in much detail in the weeks to come, but for now, it’s suffice to say that the coming of Jesus ushered in a new age, but one that actually anticipated it’s full realisation.
What I mean by that is that the death and resurrection of Jesus defeated death and provided us with a way for us to be right with God, but God chose not to put a complete end to the Devil and his ways, and so we now eagerly anticipate his second coming when things will be completely made right.
In many ways, the expectation for the second coming has many parallels with the expectation of the Jews in the Old Testament as they anticipated the first coming of the Messiah.

1 Corinthians

Paul mentions the anticipation of the early church for the second coming on a number of occasions, such as in 1 Cor 1, where in verse 7 he says: “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gifts as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed”.
Now the entire book of 1 Corinthians actually provides a very interesting case study of which I’m only going to very briefly touch on, but I’m going to do so in order to see a third pitfall in our eager expectations.
What we find in the church of Corinth is actually a church that essentially believes that they have already received all the blessings of the new age, believing this on the basis of their spiritual gifts, in particular speaking in tongues and prophecies.
They eagerly anticipated Christ’s return, but in their enthusiasm they essentially over spiritualised it all. The lesson that Paul had to give them was that their spiritual gifts weren’t the end product, but a something given to them in order to await what God had in store for them. You could say, they were a means to an end, not the end in itself.
This highlights another pitfall for us, in that as we experience blessings from God now, we can start to lose sight of the bigger picture. But God has something far bigger in store.

Mark 13

Finally, the last passage I want to come to this morning is in Mark 13, which is essentially a parallel passage of Matthew 24, and is often referred to as the Olivet discourse, named after the place where Jesus spoke it, being the Mount of Olives.
Essentially it boils down to perhaps the clearest teaching in the Bible of what the return of Christ is going to look like.
The passage actually starts with the disciples marvelling at the sight of the temple, with Jesus remarking that the temple is soon to be destroyed.
But it is from this context in which the teaching then turns to things of the end.
My intention this morning is not to go over each of this passage in detail, rather as I did for the other three passages, find one more pitfall in our anticipation of the end.
From this passage I want to show how easy it is to become overwhelmed by the calamities of this world.
In this passage, in clear view is a very particular calamity, that is, the destruction of their beloved temple.
But as Jesus speaks, it becomes clear that it is going to be even bigger than that. He talks of wars, earthquakes and famines.
The message from Jesus is to stay focussed, because he will be coming back.
He says in verse 26: “at that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens”.
We need to keep this focus because the truth of the matter is that we can easily be put off by the things of this world. You don’t need me to tell you of all the calamities that are happening in the world at the moment. Just turn of the news at night, or open a news paper. I promise you won’t look long before you see some of the horrible things that are happening.
In fact, while I could highlight a number of horrible things happening in the world at the moment, there is one I want to draw your attention to because the media aren’t giving it much attention, or at least not as much as it deserves.
I’m talking about the crises that is happening in Myanmar with the Rohingya people. If you’re unfamiliar with what is happening, essentially the people group who identify as Rohingya, and have long lived in Myanmar, mostly in the province of Rakhine, are not being recognised by the government of Myanmar.
One report I read actually argued that it fits the definition of apartheid, which we saw some time ago in South Africa. But whatever you call it, the Rohingyan are now stateless and are not welcome in their own home. This has forced many to flee, largely to the neighbouring Banglesdesh, but the situation is very dire.
The news that is actually coming out of Myanmar is actually devestating. Towns have been burnt to the ground. Violence is everywhere. There are reports of widespread rape and torture.
But what makes it even worse is that there seems to be very little appetite amongst world leaders to actually help them out.
I will however put a little plug in for Baptist World Aid here because they are actually working in this area and if you wanted to donate to Baptist World Aid to help this particular issue, I can give you the details.
The sad thing is though, that while I’m just highlighting one big issue in the world at the moment, there are actually countless crises and attrocities happening around the world, most of which I don’t even really know about.
It is easy to let this get us down. Certainly some people do argue that a good God would never allow such a thing to happen. The truth is, a good God has allowed it to happen, but not forever. And this is where we need to keep our focus right. You see, while we see these events unfolding around us, we also know that it was part of God plan, a plan that will culminate in him returning and making it all right again.


As I draw this to a close now, as we come to a time of anticipation now, we realise that ultimately our anticipation is for the wrongs to be made right, but in thinking about these anticipation, things can go wrong.
This morning I’ve looked at four such things.
First we consider the problem of a sinful attitude in our life. This sinful attitude will take us a long way from where God is directing us, and so we need to guard this by staying close to God.
Second we saw how our selfish desires can alter our expectations to suit what we want. Just like the Jews looked for a Messiah to come and bring them power, we can think only in selfish terms about what God is doing for us. We need to consider the bigger picture so that we see that at the centre it is what God is doing, it’s not about us.
Thirdly, I considered the tendency to see the blessings we currently receive as the thing we desire. While those blessings are great, it should not take us off view of what God wants for us.
And finally I looked at the calamities that happen around us and how easily they can knock our confidence of seeing God who is in total control. God is in control, and the fact that a lot of bad things around us are happening, this is not proof that he doesn’t exist or is unwilling to help, but that he has allowed it to happen so that he can triumph through it.
We need to keep eagerly awaiting the return of Christ, but when we take our gaze of God, this expectation can easily become misguided. But the expectation is something that will be most glorious on the great day when it arrives.
So lets pray...
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more